OK, enough with the moderate fare and onto the good stuff... the really good stuff! Yes, folks, it's Royal Ascot, and there is a sumptuous feast of racing delicacies on our placepotting menu today. That said, it's typically the 'easiest' placepot day of the week, so I'll be keeping it tight here, with bigger fish to fry as the week wears on. The pools are expected to swell to over half a million a day. Half. A. Million.
Let's get cracking...
2.30 - Leg 1: The Queen Anne Stakes gets us going, and I'm in two minds about fielding against the short priced favourite, Animal Kingdom. On the one hand, he has a lot of negatives to overcome for an even money shot; on the other, he's a class horse and will surely make the first three, no? It's because of this apprehension that I reluctantly include him with AN Other.
My AN Other, which I backed earlier in the week and see no reason to desert now, is Elusive Kate. She's a dual Group 1 winner, and comes from the yard of my numero uno Royal Ascot trainer, John Gosden.
A - 2 (Animal Kingdom), 13 (Elusive Kate)
3.05 - Leg 2: Another race which revolves around a high class foreign raider: this time it's Shea Shea, the dynamite South African sprinter. On the form of his Al Quoz Sprint romp, he's not going to be beaten here. He beat Sole Power by two and a half lengths - twice - in Meydan, and Sole Power is almost the best of the 'home' challenge. Swiss Spirit is clearly a danger, but this race might not be as deep as it has been in the past. And, because I want to keep things really tight in the first part of today' wager, I'm banking on the 'Saffer', Shea Shea.
A - 11 (Shea Shea)
3.45 - Leg 3: Another race where quality trumps quantity, and another race which looks top heavy from a market perspective. Dawn Approach is my hope horse here, but Magician is probably a much safer place wager in case the English Guineas winner fails to recover from his barmy effort in the Derby. Though it pains me, the percentage play is Magician. Banker.
A - 6 (Magician)
4.25 - Leg 4: Whilst I do have a fancy for Championship here, it's a race where I'm taking a couple more bullets as insurance. On A, I'll add Sir John Hawkins, on the basis of his paid up membership of the 'Could Be Anything' club. On B, I'll take the proven level of form of Stubbs, though I suspect others will improve past him. I'm not sure what to make of the Woodcote Stakes at Epsom, where Thunder Strike was a clear winner over the eye-catching if eccentric Riverboat Springs. The Riverboat has been late leaving his mooring twice now, and there's no guarantee that he'll sail on time this afternoon. If he doesn't, he'll be some sort of flying machine to win this. On balance, then, Thunder Strike is a safer option.
A - 2 (Championship), 11 (Sir John Hawkins)
B - 12 (Stubbs), 14 (Thunder Strike)
5.00 - Leg 5: And then it got trappier, ostensibly at least. Although four-year-olds have a fine record in the race (eight winners in the last fifteen years, 27 places), they typically have more experience that Tiger Cliff. Indeed, of the thirteen 4yo's with six or fewer runs to come here, none has won and just three were placed... and two of those were 25/1 and 33/1.
Horses fitting this bill have been beaten out of sight at odds as low as 5/2, and experience seems crucial. The one which finished best behind Tiger Cliff is the Ed Dunlop-trained Mubaraza. He looked to need a marathon trip there, and has eleven runs already in the bag. He's on A.
I'm also taking Well Sharp, a classy stayer in the making; and Justification, who will relish the trip and more galloping track, here.
On B, Big Easy and Midnight Oil have attractive profiles without quite ticking all the boxes (Big Easy has been off a while, Midnight Oil may not be quite good enough).
A - 2 (Well Sharp), 9 (Justification), 11 (Mubaraza)
B - 6 (Midnight Oil), 10 (Big Easy)
5.35 - Leg 6: We close with the basically impossible Windsor Castle Stakes, a five furlong sprint with a million (all right, just the 25) runners. All are likely to improve on their demonstrated level of form, but which will improve the most is the question. I really don't like the look of this race. 75% of the placed horses in the last sixteen years had run between eight and thirty days prior to this, which is about as telling an 'in' as I could find.
In the face of clueless adversity, I'll opt for the Countdown strategy: two from the top, two from the middle and one from anywhere else. My top two are Anticipated and Fountain Of Youth; my middle two are Ogermeister and My Catch; and my one from anywhere else is Extortionist.
A - 2 (Anticipated), 10 (Fountain Of Youth)
B - 6 (Extortionist), 15 (My Catch), 16 (Ogermeister)
Just A's - 2 x 1 x 1 x 2 x 3 x 2 = 24 bets
All picks - 2 x 1 x 1 x 4 x 5 x 5 = 200 bets
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